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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some Days, Life is Like a Bag of Lemons...

I remember what I thought of motherhood before I became a mother myself. 

I used to envy the mother pushing her pram down the street, dressed in her tracksuit. 'How comfy and easy life must be,' I thought.

Seeing a family, sitting at a cafe - the toddler strapped in to a highchair devouring a piece of cake - I'd think, 'Family time together. How precious.'

Then I had my own children, and the reality of those scenarios hit me.

The mum pushing the pram? Well, the tracksuit she was wearing was probably the only thing left in her wardrobe - apart from her maternity clothes - that she could fit in to after giving birth to her son. Three months before. And whilst elasticised pants sounded like heaven to her during early pregnancy, by the time her baby was born she was over them. Her baby probably hadn't slept for the past eight hours, and having been up all night trying to settle him, feed him and walk him up and down the hallway rubbing his back, the 'stroll' was a last ditch attempt to stop him from screaming his head off - and to keep her from losing her mind.

And the family at the cafe? More than likely, five minutes after I left - my stomach full and the newspaper read from front to back - the toddler would start smearing the cake she was eating in to her hair and would then throw it on the floor - maybe even at other patrons in the cafe. When scolded by her mother not to (because her Daddy was too busy reading the newspaper to notice), she would then proceed to throw a tantrum, attracting lots of tsk-tsking from the little old ladies on the adjacent table. The mother would then express her frustration that she can't, "even sit for five minutes and enjoy a meal anymore without drama!" And she'd be right.

Why is it, before I had children myself, I didn't really know just how challenging parenting could be? Always a blessing, but also...difficult at times. (And I'm not just talking about the physical daily stuff we do for our children, but the emotions experienced when raising a child. When my children are upset, it pulls at my heart strings like nothing else can.)

Did I refuse to see it? Was I brainwashed by advertising campaigns featuring smiling, happy children (and parents) giving me a false sense of what lie ahead? Were parents I knew not 'fessing up to just how hard being a parent could be at times? I never thought parenthood would be 'easy' per se, but I did think it would be a lot less challenging than what it actually is at times.

When Jacinta Tynan wrote her honest, yet rather (in my opinion) irresponsible article about how mothers complain too much and motherhood isn't hard at all, I took offence to it. My main concern when Jacinta described motherhood as "a breeze" was that such an article could push some poor mother - especially one experiencing postnatal depression - over the edge. Can you imagine? Just when you think you couldn't be more of a failure as a mother, someone comes along telling you that from where she stood, "...motherhood is a cinch."

When she wrote, "It's not as if we didn't know what we were signing up for," and how it, "...has become de rigueur to complain about how arduous the whole thing is...," I couldn't disagree more.

No one told me that some days with my kids would feel like Groundhog Day. The same arguments, the same frustrations, the same drive to and from after school activities, the same preparation of my child's school lunch box. Some days, the whole predictability of it all is almost too much to handle.

Many mothers are keeping, well, mum about how they really feel. Can you blame them? Hell, we're living in the 'we can have it all' period. To admit that actually, you're letting the team down because just negotiating with your toddler what they'll wear each day is doing your head in, and the thought of trying to hold down a career as well sends you in to a tailspin, seems just plain silly. Because, you know, what's-her-name is raising three kids, running her own business, studying, knitting jumpers in her spare time, keeping the perfect home and making time to exercise and she never complains, so why should you?

As mothers, we're not supposed to complain, and when we do, we often immediately feel guilty for doing so. (And let me say for the record, that I would never wish my life any different. Any difficult day with my kids is better than any day I had in the past before they were born.) We're just supposed to feel "blessed" that we are mothers at all! And that's true - we should feel blessed, and (most of us - I'm one of them) do. However, isn't it just bollocks to expect us to never complain about the inevitable monotony that life presents to us? Should we just keep our true feelings inside, and drown in guilt instead when we don't feel like doing a happy dance every day in celebration of motherhood? 

You see, the mothers who supposedly have it all? They don't. No matter how many happy, smiley pictures they have on their Facebook page of themselves with their kids, or blog posts they write about their wonderful life, they have crap days just like you and me. Guaranteed, there's always something that's falling through the cracks in their life - and hey, there's also the cleaner, the gardener and babysitter they probably aren't telling you about, because they are (wrongly) embarrassed to do so.

In a magazine article recently, Mummy Mayhem, and another blog, were referred to as blogs, "whose owners all place great store on how normal and imperfect their mothering is." (Madison Magazine, July 2011). I can't tell you how proud I am of that quote. It has always been my hope that other mothers could relate to my posts on parenting issues. I want mothers and fathers to feel they can express they're at times confused, frustrated and disillusioned. I personally refuse to feel guilt about occasionally complaining about my life. I do that because a) I want to help others know they are not alone; and b) I need reassurance that everything will be okay, and that I'm not a failure and I'm just human. Okay?

In the movie, Forrest Gump, Forrest says, "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'" And that's partly true. Life is filled with shiny, multi-coloured moments of pure joy when you open up the wrappers of life and discover what's inside.

Some days, though, life is like a bag of lemons. You know exactly what you're gonna get, and it's probably going to leave a sour taste in your mouth. That's just life.

It's how you choose to use those lemons that makes all the difference.

What about you? Did you find being a parent was a lot more challenging than you thought it would be? Do you think mothers should feel free to complain if they want to? If you're not a parent yourself, do you find it difficult when you read parents expressing their honest opinions about how tough parenting can be?



Tara @ Mum-ments said...

hehehe i had to gigile at the first 2 points they are exactly what i thought and what happens to me now!

Mothering is compeltely differnt to what i thought it was going to be! yet some of it is exactly as i dreamed

Mothers should defiantly complain, i know i do i just try and keep it to a minimum as to not bore people lol
i find complaining in moderation helps form friendships and understanding from people going through the exact same thing as you!
which is oh so very comforting

Awesome post loved it!

Megan Blandford said...

Great post, Jodie. Right now for me, I wouldn't say parenting is 'hard'... just monotonous. The constant questions, same routines day in day out, those sorts of things are what bring me down at times.

I also have felt guilty in the past for voicing this - because I'm so lucky for what I have. But you're right, we can't feel grateful every minute of every day. That just isn't how life is; it's OK to feel that life isn't perfect all the time.

neesay said...

Thank you!!! Just this very morning I was reflecting on my blog. I worry that it sounds like I'm complaining about my lot in life all the time. Definitately not my intention but blogging (& FB) is my way of connecting with people who can relate to my day to day life and perhaps validate the feelings I have about it all.

Love my kids, love my life but every day can't be sunshine & lollipops, so why pretend?

aumummy said...

Well said. At days when it feels everything is going against me. I just accept it with a few grumbles. When tomorrow comes it doesn't feel so bad.

Corinne – Daze of My Life said...

Fabulous post and so true.

Just last night hubs and I were having dinner with some friends who don't have and kids and they said: "It must be so much fun and so entertaining having kids."

My husband replied: "Yes, it is but it's also hard and tiring and boring and frustrating a lot of the time too."

I'm a big believer in telling it like it is. No one's life is perfect. Sometimes I feel like I whinge too much on my blog, but that's what life is sometimes.

Christie said...

Yep I'm guilty of romanticizing motherhood amongst a myriad of other things. Even now I sometimes wistfully imagine how having 5 children would be, when I already know how hard raising 4 is!! (Don't worry, I'm done)
I'll have to go and read that article, does she give away her secrets to her easy life? Maybe she's actually a robot?

Kirsty said...

Jodie, great post, this is exactly how I feel! I love being my kids' mummy but I sometimes loathe being a mum.

I work 4 days a week, coordinate specialist appts for the family, ferry them all to after school activities, do housework, get the kids ready for school, yada yada, yada. It is all hard and i try not to gloss over that on my blog.

I think the hardest part of being a mum is that you may actually be handling things as well as you can but your mind will make you question everything and make you feel guilty for trying to be everything to everyone. It's one tough gig, hats off to all of us!

Kirsty @My Home Truths

Penny said...

There's a difference between complaining and telling it like it is...that's what I tell myself anyway!I feel guilty if I complain. I feel guilty if I don't. I never felt guilty about on TINY LITTLE thing before I became a mum. There must be some chemical reaction that happens as soon as you hear your child's first cry, the guilty emotion kicks in and never. ever. ever. leaves.

River said...

Yes, you were brainwashed. on purpose. Think about it. If we knew beforehand just how challenged and sleep deprived we would be, would we go ahead and have children. Probably not.
So not knowing is a good thing. Plus, there's that little voice in your head that says, "that won't happen to me, my babies will be clean and smiling little angels, always".

Mum on the Run said...

Wonderful post.
I have a sore neck from nodding along with you!
I too used to romantacise 'mummyhood'. I alwsys laugh at how beautiful I thought life would be strolling along with gorgeous bub in our lovely pram with my beautiful dog alongside.
I did walk a LOT when Magoo was young - because he screamed so much. I would walk with tears streaming down my face and big, puffy eyes under my sunglasses!
The picture of bliss!!!

I'm overcome by guilt if I so much as think I am having a crap mummy moment/day.

I also do the stare and compare - thinking every other woman on the planet does a better job than me or has more to contend with than me.

Thank you for your well written post and mirroring all my thoughts!!!


Cherie @ 'a baby called Max' said...

Thankyou so much.

I actually really honestly needed to read this.

I stumbled upon your blog, and now I intend to read many more posts because this just made one of (those) days not so bad any more :)

I completely romanticised motherhood. It's both better & worse than I imagined, if that can possibly make sense.

Your blog is fantastic, and you write as if you're just talking to a really good friend's. I feel lucky to be able to be your audience.

Jean said...

Hell, yeah!
I adore my kids, but my job as a nurse was a piece of cake compared to full-time mammydom.
The biggest surprise for me is that my gorgeous autistic son (who can be *cough* challenging) is easy compared to my teenager (who suffers from nothing more than nuclear hormones and a disbelief that anything matters outside his head).
I wouldn't swap being a full-time mum to my 3 for anything...but it's vital that we have the freedom to vent when the going gets tough. We're not all Doris Day on acid. XXX

Kellie said...

Motherhood is definitely not a sweet smelling rose garden. In fact, in our house it quite often reeks of shit.
I will happily admit we have more down days than up, and I think being able to admit to that keeps me sane.
Can you imagine how hard it must be for those mothers who try and maintain that public level of perfection? Seriously, with everything we are responsible for, what sense does it make to have one more thing to uphold?
Great post, couldn't agree more with you.


life without mathematics said...

I love the reference to "normal and imperfect mothering". Let's keep doing what we can to dispel this damaging concept of the "Good Mother". It's too exhausting.

Denwise aka Denyse Whelan said...

Being brave enough here to say that I cannot remember a life where I haven't been a parent.... 40 years ago I was waiting to give birth to our first child... Aged 21, in a country hospital with no hub there (not done!!) and truly ignorant (bliss?? Na!) of the birth process.
I always wanted to have kids.. Already a keen teacher & about to be mum.
I was awestruck by the way she changed how I viewed my life but after 6 months at home on an isolated property while hub went off to his school I was BORED & began eating to salve emotions I knew nothing of before.....my life as both a mum & full time teacher over the 40 years (we had a son 8 years after DD) meant that I was often cranky & overwhelmed but more than anything was fulfilled in myself as I was not ever meant to be a SAHM. I needed social and professional outlet of school but felt balanced as a mum too b/c of timing of school holidays & support systems which assisted me to feel not as guilty as I might have.
However, this is never a "one size fits all" role. My mum was f/t SAHM but I was never wanting to be like her. My kids have been ok (it seems, altho' son believed I was an angry mum a lot ...try to remember that my hub was v sick in those data)
I do not ever think I am a better or worse mum than anyone. I am just being the mum I know how to be.
And the plethora of news about Mummy wars & groups and playground mafia parents disappoints me because we women are often too much our own worst enemies.
I certainly found that out a few years back.. Another story for another day ...thanks Jodie!! Xx

Denwise aka Denyse Whelan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maxabella said...

You know, I don't actually think I gave mothering a second thought before I had my kids. And even when pregnant I didn't really think the whole thing through.

Like most things in life, I guess. Until you KNOW, you don't know?!

Terrific post, J. x

i said...

I just found your blog today and I think I love you for this post!

We spent 9 years trying to get pregant and finally adopted two children back in November last year. I love them to the ends of the earth but sometimes I just think 'jeez, what have I done, we spent years wanting this?' They are both under 18 months and although people told me it would be hard work I TOTALLY didn't understand what hard work really meant.

Parenting is without a doubt the most difficult thing I've ever done and some days I think I'm absolutely rubbish at it. I'm learning all the time however and even though it's exhausting, frustrating, guilt-inducing and nerve wracking it's still the biggest adventure I've ever had and one hell of a ride.

Thank you for telling it like it is :)

stink-bomb said...

as a non parent, i don't find it difficult when parents express how tough parenting can be because i have no doubt that it is - after all you're raising another human being - how can that NOT be tough?

if people are having a tough go of it, no matter that that "it" is then of course, yes, they have a right to complain about it.

i guess sometimes i just wish that parents would be more aware of who they are possibly complaining to - or who their potential audience who will read their complaint will be - as a childless adult who wants children more than anything, there is nothing worse than reading complaint after complaint about something you'd kill for.

parenthood is hard, anyone who says otherwise, frankly is off their rocker. and yet i'd get thrown in at the deep end and have tough day after tough day in a heartbeat.


samanthacurrie.com said...

Thanks Jodie,
I'm not in a brilliant place after the last few days and the tears are still flowing, this helped. Love!

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

I love the honesty of your post and the comments.I've been feeling so guilty about my mothering lately, it helps to know I am not alone in having difficult days with this gig.I feel like I can't complain because we waited so long to have our IVF boys, we were lucky to adopt another first and then guilt over the baby we lost ...

Dorothy said...

Well said, Jodie. I had all kinds of ideas about what parenting would be like. I had all kind of ideas what being a family would be like. All wrong....

Here I am, a sole parent, with two crazy, hyperactive, always-trying-to-kill-each-other boys and my life feels like crap every other day.

The other days, I remember that there is nothing I can do about the past and complaining isn't really going to change anything, so I just get on with pulling the kids off of one another and blog about how I feel. Sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes content. But it sure ain't a Kleenex moment.

Mama of 2 boys said...

Oh Jodie, this post resonates with me so well. You are SO right about the pressures we place on ourselves as mothers. We feel guilty for virtually everything we do or go to do for our children. I know I do on a daily basis. I also know that motherhood is entirely different to what I expected. I was the one who had those romantic visions of the mum pushing the pram or the family in the cafe. I used to dream about those moments. And in fairness, I have had some of those moments and they've been wonderful. However, I had no idea how all consuming being a mother is. We have a long way to go in society, to get to a point where we all truly support mother's and their lot. It's a horrible feeling to think you're always being judged or compared... and to be honest, I feel this way regularly. Thank heavens for many lovely, supportive people out there, they are the ones who make the role of "Mama" more manageable. Great piece of writing xo

Gypsy said...

Great blog I enjoyed reading it and know that my daughter did as well.
My children are all grown up now and my daughter even has two children of her own, but this rings so true.
Why shouldnt mums complain.
Evey other person who has a job complains about it, at least they had training and/or a manual to learn their job.
I know there are books out there to help with motherhood, but they arent a manual for how to raise YOUR kid.
Each kid is different, each parent teaches a different way, each family lives in different circumstances, different laws, religions, the list goes on.
So no one can be a "perfect" parent because there isnt a norm to go by.
Therefore if we dont complain about what is happening we wont find people who have similar situations and wont be able to get ideas on how to rectify or help our own.
Parenting maybe hard, but with the internet you now have a place to put out your problems, get some suggestions on fixing them and not be judged.
I wish I had this opportunity when my kids were little, I suggest you all use it to its fullest.
In my opinion a bad mother is only someone that doesnt ask for help or advice.

Jodi @ The Scribble Den said...

What a perfect way to describe Motherhood. You have hit the nail on the head in everything you say.
My friend and I laugh (almost cry actually) when we recall how we used to talk about motherhood before we were mothers. We would walk prams together, play dates and grab coffees. It sounded like relaxation bliss. Reality is, yes we do those things but it is far from relaxaing most time!
Groundhog day & lemons perfect. LOL

Zoey @ Good Goog said...

I was completely unprepared for motherhood the first time around. I'm not sure why. I guess I didn't really know anyone with children and must have had my head in the sand or something but I had no idea what I was getting myself in for! The sleep deprivation, being constantly mentally exhausted, not being able to sit down for just five seconds. All of it. And I think with my eldest while in some ways it has become easier now that she is a three year old, in other ways it has also become more intense. Besides, she doesn't nap - the humanity!

But, having just had a second baby who is the easiest baby on the planet I can see how if she had been my first I would think it was easy. She puts herself to sleep without any problem, she's happy to just hang out in her rocker or on the floor and she smiles all the time. Basically, the kind of baby that if you'd told me about when my first was a baby I would have either hated you or just assumed you were lying.

I guess all babies really are different.

Melodramatic Me said...

Adding my voice to the chorus of "GREAT POST" and a massive *SIGH* it's not just me!
While motherhood is the best thing that has ever happened to me, I also often say when my first born entered the world, he snuggled into me, then raised his little arm and gave me a slap in the face! Most rewarding, but definitely hardest gig in town And the more open and honest we are about it, the more supportive we can all be to each other.

Holly said...

Spot on Jodie! I love this post and I have definitely found motherhood to be much more challenging than I ever imagined. I knew it would be hard but I didn't realise that it would be hard and a challenge every day for the rest of my life! I forgot that you can't take a day off or a sick day from being a mum and that for every "problem" I solve,ten more pop up to continue to challenge me!
Just like people without children complain about aspects of their lives and jobs I think mums should be allowed to complain about how hard it is to be a parent. No point in sugar coating it, it is how it is and for all it's challenges we still love our kids to bits. I think everyone needs to feel free to vent at times about any challenging aspect of their lives, including child rearing!

bigwords is... said...

It's the monotony of motherhood that I wasn't prepared for. I can tell you what my day is going to be like from beginning to end before getting out bed, bar any unexpected illness etc (touch wood). Some days the monotony is comforting, mostly it is SO BORING and drives me a little crazier each day. Having said that I wouldn't change anything. I have three gorgeous girls who bring me immense joy. Make me laugh harder than anything in the world and who when they kiss me melt my heart. x

MaidInAustralia said...

Believe me, I had NO IDEA before I had kids. It wasn't that I was in denial, or didn't want to know; it was just that until you've been in that exhausting, mind-numbing, soul-destroying Groundhog Day, you have no idea what it's like. My kids ROCK, and I love them more than life itself. But when they are sick or hurt or in pain; or being picked on or struggling at school; or when I've got pneumonia but I've still got to get up throughout the night to tend to my kids ... it's hard. Doesn't meant I love them any less, but it's tough. Tougher than any paid job, and far more fulfilling. But we need to tell it like it is. Otherwise, people who feel just like us feel like failures. And that's wrong. xo

mixedgems said...

Hi Jodie. I'd have to say "ditto" the most of the above. For me, I think one of the hardest adjustments, especially in the beginning was the loss of self. That meant no longer really being in control of my life in a way I had been so used to as a childless person. It meant me and my needs on the back-burner, a lot. I think it's hard to really appreciate the reality of that until it happens. And that grief can permeate feelings, motivations and actions until it's addressed. Once I realised how I was feeling, it didn't turn thing all rosy but it helped adjust my attitude. The loss of self, being able to do as I want, how and when I please, is still tough but that is part of the life of a parent. And being a parent is something I wouldn't trade, ever.

Thea said...

Wow, Jodie! I think this may be the best post you've ever written...and I love ALL of your posts!

I love this -

"Some days, though, life is like a bag of lemons. You know exactly what you're gonna get, and it's probably going to leave a sour taste in your mouth. That's just life."

So damn true.
Being a mum has at times been the most frustrating thing I've ever done. Also the most mind numbing. And yet the most rewarding.

I'm just so glad there are other mum out there who feel the need to complain sometimes too, or I just wouldn't feel normal.

Some days, complaining = sanity

Donna said...

I love reading these honest accounts about parenting; its sustains that part of me that knows if I am having a bad day or wondering why I'm not super-mum, I am far from alone.

Previous to becoming a parent, and especially when pregnant, I'd go all gooey eyed looking at families, giving the mums a secret smile as I adoringly looked over their sleeping child in the pram. Now I know why they looked back at me with such a vacant stare! They no doubt couldnt see me from the tired cobwebs that covered there eyes...

grandadventure said...

love it :) reposted on my blog. thanks

Susan @ Reading Upside Down said...

Not long after I had my third child, I can remember my younger sister (who has no children) lecturing my mother and myself about how woman shouldn't complain about difficulties or pain experience during childbirth 'they know it's going to hurt, so they should just shut up about it. It's not like it's a surprise'. With 6 children between us, my mother and I couldn't convince her that no matter how much you are told about what it will feel like, you just can't know until you've experienced it.

I think women who act like motherhood and parenting are a breeze are doing us all a diservice. there is no shame in admiting that it can be tough sometimes, especially the unending repetitiveness of some tasks (as you mentioned.

Motherhood is hard in the same way that anything worthwhile is hard - it involves sacrifice, effort, diligence and focus. There are so many rewards and I wouldn't change anything about my experiences as a mother, but that doesn't mean that every moment has been filled with sunshine and rainbows.

Fantastic post, as always, Jodie. xx